It’s great to have people around you who care about you enough to “check in” on you in the midst of a faith crisis. I’ve been lucky enough to have people like that in my life. At first I really needed it. It was important to me.

But there comes a point where you want to stop being labeled as the guy who’s struggling.

I haven’t been for a while now. I feel like I’m in a decent place. It’s one that’s much more ambiguous and subject to a roller coaster of emotions, but I’m okay with that.

But I still get the occasional check-in. Mostly because I’m no longer bound by the belief that my eternal salvation is dependent on strict weekly church attendance, holding a calling and going home teaching. That kind of approach to Mormonism kind of automatically puts you in the “we’re concerned about him” zone.

I’m starting to wish there was some sign I could hang around my neck that says “Really, I’m okay.”

So, this my new faith manifesto:

I’ve will no longer self-identify, either in my own head or to others, as “struggling” or in any sort of a “faith crisis.”

I’m not struggling, and I’m not in a crisis.

I’m just on a new path. It may not be the same path you’re on. And you know what? That’s okay. I’ll still put my arm around you at church on Sunday (if I’m not off camping or sleeping in because really? 8:30 a.m. sacrament meeting?)

My “testimony” (whatever that really means) is as valid and strong as anyone else in my ward, stake, or the church. That it is different and unique from many others does not make it inferior. That it is malleable and changes over time does not make it better or worse than your written-in-stone, unshakable testimony.

I will stop apologizing or feeling skittish or like I’m walking on eggshells when talking about difficult aspects of my religion. I embrace my religion, warts and all. I do not gloss over the bad parts like an embarrassed family member covering up for wayward siblings.

I will acknowledge my privilege as a white, straight, male, American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the inherent ease of membership that privilege brings me. Although I mostly suck at it, I will try to use my privilege to help others who, through no fault of their own, do not enjoy the same privilege I do.147807-Be-Different-

I will stop going out of my way to always meet others on their terms. I will expect others to, when appropriate, meet me on my terms instead.

I will be grateful for uncertainty, relish in ambiguity and reject black-and-white framing in almost all things.

I will create and maintain separate boxes for “religion” and “the gospel” and treat them accordingly, and not apologize for doing so.

I will embrace a new discipleship of Jesus Christ that includes rejecting ecclesiastical authority when/where appropriate, loving service more than rote attendance, and embracing those who are the most outcast of our religious society. I will dine with Mormonism’s publicans and stand in defense Mormonism’s harlots.

In embracing this new approach to faith that seems foreign to so many who share my religion, I will make no apologies for being a “radical” Mormon in the same sense that Jesus of Nazareth was a radical Jew.

But most of all, I will be humble and recognize that I don’t have all the answers and likely never will. I will embrace love, compassion and kindness as the answers to most of life’s difficult questions.

James Patterson lives with his wife and two children in North Carolina. He makes no apologies for being an avid fan of both Duke basketball and Taylor Swift.

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